Seed saving: beginner
Luffa (Luffa cylindrica)
Luffa (Luffa cylindrica): the famous vegetable sponge!
Interesting Cucurbitacea (also called gourd) from Asia, used as a vegetable sponge as well as for consumption as a fruit (when still unripe).
The plant has climbing habit, but it can also be allowed to grow on the ground.
Easy o grow because it is particularly rustic and resistant to fungal diseases. It needs good irrigation especially in the early stages, it is vigorous and very productive, a rich soil will guarantee exceptional results.
The sowing should be carried out in seedbed at a minimum temperature of 15°C,
better in a heated seedbed: the ripening of the fruits takes several months so it can avoid problems with low temperatures. In this case, we recommend to grow them with the assistance of a pergola or any climbing support so that the autumn rains do not rot the fruits before harvesting. The flowers are large, numerous, similar to those of the lagenarias and hold an intense yellow color, very ornamental.
The fruits can be consumed as zucchini when immature, the the taste is very similar to it, but with slightly more herbaceous taste. Although they can be eaten, it is
not the main reason why they are cultivated but for the popular sponges, as you can find out in the next section
Luffa (name derived from the Arabic term “Louff”) produces a very popular and appreciated vegetable sponge. Recovering
it is simple, you just need patience: the “gourds” will be ready for extraction after several months (about 6/7 from sowing). For this reason it is advisable to provide support or grow it on a pergola, since it gives the advantage of protecting the fruits from any autumn rains, it also allows for a vertical development of the fruits which will produce sponges of better quality. To obtain the sponges it is enough to wait for the fruits (about 4 months after development) to take a "dry" appearance, a yellow/brown color, and the skin is hard to the touch. At this point, if it has not rained in the last few days, you can extract the sponge and seeds, otherwise place them to dry in a ventilated place. With your hands or with the help of a small knife now open the "peel" of the fruits, you will find the beautiful sponge, make a cut of about 15/20 cm and extract the seeds, at this point wash them until they become almost white, place them to dry in a ventilated place, and it is all done. Luffa sponges are a bit rough so they have a very pleasant exfoliating function. After using them rinse them and let them dry, they will last a few months.